New Saskatchewan ball hall inductee Herback proud of work teaching coaches

 Al Herback with Jane Shury, executive director of the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame, on Saturday. Photo Credit: Danny Gallagher

Al Herback with Jane Shury, executive director of the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame, on Saturday. Photo Credit: Danny Gallagher

By Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

BATTLEFORD, Sask.  -- Al Herback spent 13 days in Uganda. He spent 13 days in Russia.

He's been in different parts of the world for the last 45 years, teaching coaches how to coach kids in baseball. And the Kincaid, Sask. native was not a shabby player either.

"I've probably put on about 600 clinics since 1972 and I figured that has involved about 40,000 coaches and maybe half a million kids,'' Herback was saying Saturday prior to being inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in the individual category.

"To be inducted here is a tremendous honour for me. If someone had nominated me just as a player, I wouldn't get in. I'm mostly here as a builder. The teaching part is the most satisfying, gratifying work I've ever done. The highlight of my baseball career would be what came out of my knowledge of baseball.

"It's a great feeling teaching coaches and children how the game is played. My favourite story is from Uganda. They had no gloves, no bats, no sneakers so I taught them using tennis balls and tennis racquets. In games we played, we used tennis balls and tennis racquets.''

Sounds strange but it's a true, inspiring story.

Also inducted in the individual category with Herback were Don Anderson, Garry Anderson, Cliff Campbell, Robert Faith, Jamie Flanagan, Garnet Hansent, Ross Mahoney, Don Pankewich, Jim Fink, John Batey and Norm Arngrimson.

Getting the nod in the team category were the Wawota Pats and Broadview Buffaloes. In the family category, the Woodward clan from Colgate was honoured and in the community section, the Holenlohe school district and the village of Merlin were feted.

Herback played some serious baseball for both the junior and senior Regina Red Sox in his heyday and then when his job as a teacher dispatched him to Calgary, he played for the famous Jimmies squad which won the Canadian senior championship in Fredericton, N.B. in 1976. During that time, he was also spending a few months each year, teaching coaches how to coach kids.

His job as a teacher in the schools of education made him a natural as a teacher in the schools of baseball. In many countries, baseball was never big but he's most proud of what he was able to do to advance the skill levels of coaches, who in turn would tutor the kids. He's a national coach for Little League Canada and he has written many of the organization's manuals.   

"I hope that through my efforts that coaches will have the confidence to give kids an enjoyable, fun time playing baseball,'' said Herback, who doesn't look a day over 60 but says he's 72.

Talking of fun, Herback had this word of advice for modern-day coaches: Less practice for kids, more play.

"Let them have some fun. Let them play more,'' Herback said.

Herback has played with and against some very talented ballplayers in Saskatchewan and his list of them starts with Larry Bachiu, Doug Simon, Ned Andreoni and Pete Duncan.

Prior to the induction ceremony Saturday, Herback and some of the other inductees and general public visited the beautiful museum in this quaint town located in west-central Saskatchewan on the Yellowhead Highway.

Several hundred people attended a noon luncheon and more than 400 people attended the night induction ceremony. The annual festivities just get better and better for Hall of Fame and museum executive director Jane Shury.

"When the inductees are getting inducted, I'm sitting close to them so it can get very emotional for me, listening to their history and their careers,'' Shury said.

 

Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com